Written by Sydney Beckham

The state of Florida has long been known as a crucial battleground state in Presidential elections. Following the 2022 Midterms, Florida may now need to be considered a reliable red state for the foreseeable future. Republican incumbents Governor Ron DeSantis and Senator Marco Rubio beat their Democrat opponents by a landslide, and the Florida Legislature now holds a historical Republican supermajority. Though Democrat gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist had a long history of working in Florida politics, his campaign was not able to pick up the support, especially in general election ad spending, needed to defeat DeSantis.

Florida saw the second most gubernatorial general election ad spending this cycle, with $91.1M spent. Republican advertisers made up nearly 86% of total spending, with $78.1M, while Democrats only spent $13M. Texas saw the most gubernatorial general ad spending, exceeding $101M. In Texas, Republicans held a $2.7M spending advantage. Democrats outspent Republicans in each of the next eight most expensive gubernatorial generals, with an average of a $21.5M advantage in those elections. In Wisconsin, Georgia, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, Democrat advertisers held an advantage of at least $20M. Although Republicans only outspent Democrats in two of the top ten gubernatorial generals, the Republican advantage in Florida was greater than any other gubernatorial general party advantage.

Diving deeper into Florida gubernatorial general spending, the top three advertisers were the Republican Party of Florida 3 PAC (Desantis, Moody, Patronis), Florida Democratic Party 3 PAC (Crist, Smith, Eskamani), and Charlie Crist’s campaign. The RPOF 3 PAC spent $68.86M, averaging over $6M a week during the general election. While the Republican Party of Florida poured money into advertising for DeSantis, the Florida Democratic Party only spent $5.74M throughout the general election. Crist’s campaign spent $6.89M.

This is a donut chart showing general election spending broken up by advertisers in FL Governor.

Advertisement messaging for this election had a variety of topics. The FDP 3 PAC and Charlie Crist’s campaign ran ads about two main issues: abortion and taxation. Democrat advertisers highlighted DeSantis’s abortion ban following the overturning of the Roe v Wade decision. Other ads emphasized high insurance rates and an increase in sales tax under DeSantis. The Republican Party of Florida 3 PAC’s messaging covered a broader range in subjects. The most frequent category was about DeSantis’s character, highlighting career in the Navy and his family. Many ads celebrated DeSantis’s response to COVID-19 and his dedication to keeping businesses and schools open. Crime, education, inflation, and President Joe Biden were among other popular topics from DeSantis.

            In the 2018 Florida Gubernatorial election, DeSantis won by a slim margin of 32,000 votes. In 2022, DeSantis won by over 1.5 million votes, flipping traditional Democratic counties including Miami-Dade and Palm Beach. In the 2018 Florida gubernatorial general, Republicans made up 57% of total spending. This cycle, spending from Republicans in 2022 doubled, while Democrats spent less than half of what they did in 2018. This resulted in Republicans making up 86% of spending in 2022.

This is a bar chart  comparing Florida gubernatorial general election ad between 2018 and 2022

Ron DeSantis has become a prominent figure within the Republican Party, both in Florida and across the US. Following his landslide victory, speculation has continued to grow towards a potential 2024 Presidential bid. In the October debate between DeSantis and Crist, DeSantis did not verbally commit to serving his full four year term once elected in 2022. There have already been advertisements aired nationally from a Republican PAC called “Ready for Ron,” which operates independently from any campaign. The ad’s slogan, “America needs a fighter. America needs Ron DeSantis,” insinuates DeSantis poses the best chance to beat Biden. To this point, Ready for Ron is the only spending supporting a DeSantis Presidential bid, but there will likely be more in the coming months.

If you're interested in learning more about the primary that selected Crist, read our blog about Florida's primaries last Summer.

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